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Modern Orthodox Rabbi Says Intermarriage is an Opportunity

December 3, 2013

Throughout the more than three thousand years of Jewish history, opportunities have presented themselves to our people to share the message of Torah to those who are not Jewish. The Torah records in Genesis that Abraham and Sarah traveled throughout Canaan sharing with interested people the message of the One God. They established for us for all time the responsibility of their descendants to continue that task.

In the twenty-first century an opportunity has presented itself to do just that. Its name is INTERMARRIAGE.

Let it not shock you, that I, a veteran Modern Orthodox rabbi, a graduate of Yeshiva University, writes these words. Now is not the time for us to bury our heads in the sand. Now is not the time for us to bemoan the situation. Now is not the time to sound off against this phenomenon.

Now is the time to recognize that the freedom of religious expression granted to us in these United States has produced a Jewish world in which many who are not Jewish have expressed an interest. An intermarriage represents to my thinking the acceptance of Judaism and its values into the mainstream of America.

Of course I understand the "dangers inherent in this." It is indeed possible that through an intermarriage the Jewish partner will eventually sever ties with his/her long family history. Not to enter into such an intermarriage would "be better"—less dangerous. But the reality of the modern free society in which we live should not be dismissed off hand.

I welcome the opportunity given to me by InterfaithFamily to be totally and fully involved. I welcome the opportunity to meet with all couples exploring intermarriage in order that they be given a solid informative understanding of what Judaism is. I shall not be judgmental but shall be understanding of the concerns and desires of the couple involved. Without question I shall seek to offer my perspectives to the partner who is not Jewish. It is only fair to him/her to be "so educated."

And without question I shall not consider that an intermarriage represents the END OF THE LINE, BUT RATHER THE BEGINNING OF A JOURNEY.

It makes no difference to me whether the wife in this intermarriage is Jewish, in which case technically her children will be considered Jewish. That technicality of halacha might be important to the rabbi of a congregation who is asked to permit a bar or a bat mitzvah ceremony. That technicality of halacha might be important to the mohel who is asked to perform the brit milah.

My interest lies in guaranteeing that this couple have the right and the opportunity to meet and study with an Orthodox rabbi to more fully comprehend what Judaism is all about.

Perhaps some of my colleagues will disagree with my take on this matter. I shall respect their feelings and ask only that they do the same for me. In no way shall I remain anything other than an Orthodox rabbi who has his eyes wide open to the realities of today. And if some of my colleagues wish to join me in this undertaking I will be most grateful.

The lines of communication are there for the taking. Please do not hesitate.

Read Rebecca Goodman's response to Rabbi Green's essay

Hebrew for "daughter of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish girls come of age at 12 or 13. When a girl comes of age, she is officially a bat mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bat mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The male equivalent is "bar mitzvah." Hebrew for "covenant of circumcision," a ritual for Jewish boys when they are 8 days old. It is commonly known as "bris," which is the Ashkenazi or Yiddish pronunciation of "brit." Hebrew for "Jewish law," it's the body of Jewish religious law including biblical law (those commandments found in the Torah), later Talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions. Hebrew, literally, for "sitting," refers to a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts (including Torah and Talmud study). A yeshiva can be a day school for elementary or high school students, or a place of study for adults. Traditionally, a yeshiva was attended by boys/men only; more recently, yeshivas have opened for girls/women and even co-ed yeshivas now exist. Hebrew for "circumciser" (Yiddish term is "moyel"), the person who performs a ritual circumcision. The feminine form is "mohelet." Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), or the scroll that contains them.
Rabbi Simchah A. Green

Rabbi Simchah A. Green is a modern orthodox rabbi who received his ordination from Yeshiva University. He has served in the rabbinate for more than forty years and directed several religious Hebrew schools in east coast US communities. He moved from Maine to California in 2006 to lead Ahabat Torah, San Jose's only Sephardic Orthodox synagogue.

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